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SNCF’s shady past

October 2006

The French state railway SNCF has been asked to pay millions of euros in compensation to more than 200 families whose relatives were transported to Nazi death camps during World War II. The families have threatened to sue the company if their request is not granted. In a landmark ruling in June, a court ordered the SNCF and the government to pay damages of 60,000 euros ($80,000, £43,000) for the deportations.

The French railways are appealing against the June verdict. They argue they had no choice during the war but to do as ordered by the Vichy government in collaboration with the German occupying army. Those who refused faced being shot, they said.

More than 75,000 French Jews were transported to death camps in Nazi Germany. Records show that the SNCF billed the French state for a third-class journey, even though the families were transported in cattle wagons. The SNCF carried on demanding the money for the transports, even after France had been liberated by the Allies.

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